The US military said it carried out precision airstrikes in eastern Syria on Thursday in response to a drone attack that killed a US contractor and injured five US service personnel.
A US Department of Defense statement said the US contractor had been killed and the others wounded “after a one-way unmanned aerial vehicle struck a maintenance facility on a Coalition base near Hasakah in northeast Syria.”
Another US contractor was also injured in the uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) attack, the Pentagon said, adding that the US intelligence community “assess the UAV to be of Iranian origin.”
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that at the direction of US President Joe Biden, he had authorized “precision airstrikes tonight in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps [IRGC].”
“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack, as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” he added.
Hundreds of US troops are in Syria as part of a coalition fighting against remnants of the Islamic State group and have frequently been targeted in attacks by militia groups.
The US troops support the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurds’ de facto army in the area, which led the battle that dislodged the Islamic State from the last scraps of its Syrian territory in 2019.
Two of the service members injured on Thursday were treated on site, while the three other troops and one US contractor were medically evacuated to Iraq, the Pentagon said.
“As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said.
When the strikes were announced, Biden had embarked on a visit to Ottawa, where he is set to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and address parliament.
In August last year, the US president ordered similar retaliatory strikes in the oil-rich Syrian province of Deir Ezzor after several drones targeted a coalition outpost, without causing any casualties.
That attack came the same day that Iranian state media announced a Revolutionary Guard general had been killed days earlier while “on a mission in Syria as a military adviser.”
Iran says it has deployed its forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus, acting only as advisers.
The Revolutionary Guard is the ideological arm of the Iranian military and is blacklisted as a terrorist group by the US.
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